Can you see, when you click on the photo and enlarge it, that small brownish structure at the end of the road sitting on the top of the hill? That’s Porere Casalciccia, the B&B where I have been house/pet sitting since mid-December.
From the photo, you can see the lovely rolling hills of Tuscany – and almost nothing else. That’s because the closest village is over 10 kilometers away and the closest neighbor is in a house up the hill and behind where I took this photo. Definitely not within shouting distance if the need arose. But being this isolated and alone would have been just fine, especially with a car and a friend to go explore the surrounding countryside, if things had turned out as planned. But sometimes things just don’t turn out as planned.
My good friend and traveling buddy, Joyce, tripped and fell 3 days before she was to fly to Rome and join me. At first, she thought she had just pulled a groin muscle. But on Christmas Eve when the pain was unbearable, she finally called an ambulance to go to the hospital to see why she was hurting so badly. Surgery was immediate for the hip she had broken!
So no Joyce. No one to talk to, share dinners with, or walk the dogs with, or go exploring with. Just endless days far out in the countryside with 2 dogs who do not understand English! It took me a while to realize that the basic commands of stay, sit, and come were just not understood by these Italian-speaking dogs. Even the 2 cats speak Italian! And while their owner will walk them for miles each day, they are not happy with me and my twice-a-day mile-only walk (There are 2, huge farm dogs up that hill that attack at the slighted provocation! I ain’t going near them.) So here we are – stuck together in this B&B with each other until January 7th.
From the above photos, you can see the beautiful sunrises (when there is sun, which has not been often. ) My neighbors are 100’s of sheep! The main B&B dining/kitchen area is where I have set up my computer, spend every day, and binge-watch Netflix and Prime on a constant basis. A beautiful hill-top village that is much further away than the zoomed-in photo and…The Dogs!
Because the farmer finally got the car out of the ditch (thank you all for asking) and wifi came back online, a plumber was found on Christmas Eve day to fix the water pump that had quit working, after finally being able to shower, I ventured into Siena on Christmas Day to enjoy dinner with my good friends, Francesca and Lorenzo and their very handsome son, Alexander, who was home from his pre-med studies at the University of Utah.
Now a little FYI about Google Maps GPS and driving with it in a foreign country. It’s an amazing thing but…when they tell you to take a right on a street that is multi-syllabic and in a language you don’t speak and there are no street signs….well… your only option is to get lost. I wandered the twisting, curving streets of Siena for over an hour coming and going just trying to find my way there and then back! ARGH. I have managed to find my way to the grocery store in Asciano when needed and to the dump where I have to take the garbage. But go exploring on my own without my ‘navigator Joyce’ in the passenger seat is not something I have chosen to do.
Finally, on New Year’s Eve day, the sun came out. The temperature rose and Lorenzo, who is the very best guide of Tuscany your will ever fine (All Around Tuscany Tours) had a free day and off we went to explore the Chianti region of Tuscany.
Our first stop was a visit to Castello di Brolio which has been in the hands of the Riscaoli family dating back to the 11th century. Perched on a hill overlooking miles of vineyards, you can still see where cannonballs have struck the walls. You look through portals in the walls where men stood with their bows and arrows and slots where hot tar was poured onto the heads oncoming invaders. Thanks to the early hour, we had the entire castle to ourselves.
The moat has been filled in by a beautiful English-type garden and the family now lives most of the year in Florence. But they make a wonderful Chianti wine that just had to be tasted. Wine for breakfast – yeah!
A little information about Italian wine – and the Chianti region. Italian wine growing is very heavily government regulated. Your wine bottles will be marked with DOCG for the highest rating and in Chianti, will have a picture of the symbol of the area, the Black Rooster.
Large sculptures, paintings, and pictures of this guy are everywhere in the Chianti region. He is their ‘gold standard’ for the Tuscan region’s Sangiovese grapes.
There is a long story about the white rooster of Siena and the black rooster of Florence and how hundreds of years ago two riders set off from their respective cities on the same morning when their roosters crowed and where they met would decide the boundaries of each region. To hear a Sienese person tell the story, the people of Florence were known for being very clever and sneaky and those of Siena were gullible and naive. Did I mention that the Black Rooster was from Florence?
Our next stop was the medieval village of Vertine. How many thousands of years this village has been in existence is still in question, but today it has 26 permanent residents and is so utterly charming that I would move there tomorrow!
Time for lunch and food to sop up the wine floating around in my tummy! We stopped in the town of Radda in Chianti and spent time walking around the streets before having a delicious meal of my favorite risotto, this one with pumpkin and sausage.
Once again, parts of this town date back to medieval times and with an underground passageway along the still-standing walls of the city. I found porceline fish swimming in a pot and a very fancy sink in a bathroom; a wonderful bakery; two fountains showing the same figure – one extremely unhappy (Siena) and the other beautiful and very pleased (Florence). And of course, a big church and beautiful, old architecture. (Don’t forget, you can enlarge any picture by just clicking on it.)
Our last stop of the day (because the best gelato shop was closed because for winter – boo hoo) was a visit with Marco, the owner of Il Colmbiao Wine and Farmhouse in Monteriggioni. Here you can stay in one of their luxurious rooms, take a swim in their pool, dine on organic foods, and drink the outstanding wines from their vineyards. And don’t forget to purchase some of their delicious olive oil as well! Lorenzo knew I wanted to send belated gifts from Santa back home to my family, so this was the perfect place to do just that.
It was a wonderful day! The weather, the tour, the wine, the people, everything. Lorenzo is an amazing, knowledgeable host that I am so happy to also call my friend.
So New Year’s Eve came….and went. After a long day in the fresh air and lots of wine, I was sound asleep by 9:30! But before I left home I had told my friends and neighbors that they were more than welcome to celebrate the New Year and San Miguel’s fireworks extravaganza on my rooftop. They made sure to call me at midnight (thankfully 7:00 a.m. my time) to say thank you and wish me a Happy New Year!
So one last outing before the Italian-speaking dog owners return on Wednesday – dinner out last night in Siena with Francesca and Lorenzo for our very own New Year’s celebration. They were kind enough to meet me at my nearby village where I parked and they drove into the city.
They chose their friend Corallo’s restaurant for a very special dinner. His specialty is seafood and he didn’t disappoint! Tiny, tender baby octopus with shitake mushrooms in a tomato sauce; red prawns with homemade burrata cheese; fresh tuna cooked perfectly with a sauce of coconut milk and ginger. Everything was delicious. Severed with an ice-cold bottle of very special Franciacorta wine, which is not quite champaign but sooooo much better than prosecco. Perfecto!
Now I just have to pass the time left walking the dogs, feeding the cats, and watching British mystery shows on Britbox until Friday when I will leave Italy and fly away.
Until next time….from Athens, Greece …. Wishing you all a very joyous, happy, and healthy 2022.